By Vanisa Senesathith (Nita), Grade 11 Scholar, Dover Campus
It has been six months since I departed from my home country to such a diverse school – UWCSEA in Singapore. With a focus on culture in this post, I hope you as readers will gain a better understanding of cultural diversity and how different our cultures are.
As UWC provides scholarships to students all around the world, therefore, I have been exposed to cultures from many countries that I hadn’t heard of before I arrived. Growing up in a country that is really traditional, culture shock is what I have faced a lot here. Everyone shakes hands when they first meet, I was a bit nervous even with shaking hands at first. After a while, as we started to know each other more, they started to hug after a long holiday not seeing each other. Some of them even kiss on both cheeks when greeting! Also, they often put their hands around your waist when taking photos! What’s more, they are so open; in Laos, we can’t mention intimate topics such as sexuality, in general conversations. At first, for sure, I felt totally strange but now I am getting used to these things.
There is even culture shock in class. Students here always participate in class, they put their hands up a lot and they discuss with each other. This is completely challenging for me, as in Laos we only listen to the teachers and jot down everything on the boards. We rarely discuss as a class or put our hands up. Hence, I was so quiet and shy at first. English was also a challenge for me at first. I found it hard to understand what my classmates, my friends and my teachers said, their accents were all so different from one another. At first, I was really afraid to speak as I was afraid that no one would understand. Surprisingly, the teachers understand my difficulty and were kind as they encouraged me to overcome it, building up my confidence. I'm also kind of a quiet person, it's not because I don't want to talk but I don't know what to say or ask, but my friends here support me infinitely and they are so kind. Now, I start to get used to this new place, everything is getting better and I am really enjoying my once-in-a-life-time opportunity here.
What I discovered is when you first move to a new country, you will find yourself in an uncomfortable position at first. But if you let yourself gradually learn and understand other cultures, then you will slowly adapt. There is also always someone who is ready to help you, sometimes even strangers.
One thing I have learned is that the boundaries of cultures can't separate us as humans; we understand each other deeply in our heart.